377 posts categorized "Education"

Scalable digital delivery with on-the-ground partner organizations: A commentary by Rebecca Chandler Leege

April 07, 2022

Indian_girl_and_mother_tablet_GettyImages_Ankit SahOver two decades of work in international development and education, I’ve often heard the claim that educational development initiatives aren’t scalable. I’ve seen firsthand that this is not true. In just over a decade, my organization, Worldreader, has reached 20 million readers across the globe. That’s no small feat! But we also know there are millions more children who deserve the opportunity to read regularly. We’ve learned lessons that will help us reach our next 200 million readers, in partnership with our colleagues across the development sector.

Our concept—scalable digital delivery with on-the-ground partner organizations—has brought reading to families in under-resourced communities the world over, and it’s a model that works across educational initiatives. I believe that digital delivery will play a critical role for any educational development organization planning to roll out programs—if we learn the right lessons.

Read the full commentary by Rebecca Chandler Leege, chief impact officer at Worldreader.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Ankit Sah) 

A vision for equalizing education: A commentary by Yolonda Marshall

March 21, 2022

College_students_pexels-keira-burtonClosing the racial gap in higher education

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the path to higher education for first-generation college students and those growing up in underserved communities was rife with uncertainty and barriers. These hurdles disproportionately affect students in underfunded public school systems, many of whom are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). The global pandemic  further exacerbated these challenges and uncertainties. With school buildings closed and periods of required quarantine creating gaps in attendance, students had to deal with significant disruptions to their learning. For a significant number of students from low-income communities the pandemic had added implications: Whether these students were tasked with the care of younger siblings or older family members while their parents worked essential jobs, or needed to take on a job themselves in response to family job loss, already underserved BIPOC students were taking on additional responsibilities outside the classroom.

As the CEO of Student Leadership Network (SL Network), a nonprofit committed to helping students from diverse, underserved communities access higher education, I am heartened by the progress we have made in our 25 years of leading equity in education. Yet we still see so many systemic inequities prevent equitable access for all students—particularly students of color—in pursuing higher education....

Read the full commentary by Yolonda Marshall, CEO of Student Leadership Network.

(Photo credit: Keira Burton via pexels)

Child mental health and social risks: A Q&A with Andrea E. Spencer, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine

February 28, 2022

Headshot_Andrea_Spencer_Boston_Medical_CenterA study led by researchers at Boston Medical Center found that the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic saw increased depression, anxiety, and social risks among urban children of color between the ages of 5 and 11. Based on surveys of caregivers of 168 children—of whom 54 percent of identified as “non-Hispanic Black” and 29 percent as “Hispanic” and 22 percent were non-English speaking—rates of emotional and behavioral symptoms rose from 8 percent in September 2019 to 18 percent in January 2021. The children’s families also faced higher social risks during the pandemic, with 50 percent reporting food insecurity mid-pandemic, up from 16 percent; 38 percent having difficulty paying bills, up from 16 percent; 12 percent reporting housing insecurity, up from 3 percent; 10 percent having difficulty with dependent care, up from 1 percent; and 10 percent experiencing unemployment, up from 3 percent.

According to the study, the share of children with depression and anxiety problems increased from 5 percent pre-pandemic to 18 percent mid-pandemic. The study also found that, while mental health symptoms in children were significantly correlated with the number of social risks before the pandemic, this was not the case mid-pandemic; the symptoms were worse due to factors beyond those unmet social needs, such as their caregivers’ anxiety or depression.

The study’s lead author, Andrea E. Spencer, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, director for pediatric integrated behavioral health care at Boston Medical Center, and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine. PND asked Spencer about the study’s implications for public health, health equity, and public policy.

Philanthropy News Digest: The study, “Changes in psychosocial functioning among urban, school‑age children during the COVID‑19 pandemic,” found that before the pandemic, the children’s emotional and behavioral symptoms were associated with unmet social needs such as food or housing insecurity. How significant was the correlation, and what are the implications?

Andrea E. Spencer: Our clinic screens for mental health symptoms and social needs as part of routine child annual visits to be sure we know when a child and family is struggling with symptoms or needs that we might be able to address at our hospital or via our partnership with community organizations. For the study, we were able to access this information from participants’ medical records to obtain a pre-pandemic baseline.

We saw a significant and moderate correlation between unmet social needs and emotional/behavioral symptoms before the pandemic. This is similar to our findings in another paper published several years ago that also used data from our electronic medical record system. The significance of the finding refers to the probability that random chance generated the data. A small p-value means that the results are very unusual if they were due to chance only. We set our significance level at 0.05, which means that we considered the finding “statistically significant” if there was a 5 percent or lower random chance of getting that result if there really is no correlation. The correlation between unmet social needs and mental health symptoms before the pandemic was in fact highly significant with a p value of less than 0.001—meaning that this finding would have been generated only 0.1 percent of the time if only due to chance. The moderate correlation indicates that as social risks increased, mental health symptoms also increased, but that this relationship is not perfectly linear. This makes sense, because we know there are other factors that relate to child mental health other than social risks. What this doesn’t specifically tell us is the directionality of the association.

PND: The study also found that during the pandemic, by contrast, the children’s symptoms were not significantly correlated with unmet needs, knowing someone with COVID-19, or exposure to COVID-related media. What, then, are the factors that contributed to the jump in children’s mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression?

AES: In our study, the increase in anxiety and depression symptoms during the pandemic were associated with increased screen time, low school engagement, and parent depression symptoms. In addition, families felt that the lack of activities outside of the house, the change in normal routines, social isolation, stress and fear of COVID-19, and lack of physical activity were negatively impacting their child’s well-being....

Read the full Q&A with Andrea E. Spencer, director for pediatric integrated behavioral health care at Boston Medical Center and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Integrating a focus on equity into our processes: A Q&A with Katy Knight, Executive Director and President, Siegel Family Endowment

February 11, 2022

Headshot_Katy_Knight_Siegel_Family_EndowmentKaty Knight is executive director and president of Siegel Family Endowment, a foundation focused on understanding and shaping the impact of technology on society.  Knight joined the foundation in 2017 as deputy executive director. Her earlier career included working on community engagement at financial sciences company Two Sigma; various positions at Google, most notably on the public affairs team; and roles in education, technology, and community-based organizations. She also previously served on her local Community Board in Queens, New York, and earned recognition in 2015 as a 40 Under 40 Rising Star in City & State. In addition, she serves on the boards of a number of nonprofits, including READ Alliance, CSforALL, Pursuit, and the Regional Plan Association.

PND asked Knight about philanthropy’s influence on infrastructure, the sector’s approach to equity, Big Tech’s impact and philanthropy’s technological future outlook, the politicization of science, and how philanthropy could fill gaps and drive change in education and workforce development.

Philanthropy News Digest: You’ve stated that you believe philanthropy should champion a new definition of infrastructure—like a bridge between social impact work and the infrastructure all communities need to thrive. What does that look like?

Katy Knight: The old definition of infrastructure is outdated: In the 21st century, the systems that are supposed to serve us all are more than just bridges, tunnels, and highways. Infrastructure today means broadband, satellite arrays, data, public spaces like libraries and parks, and more. We see infrastructure as multidimensional—meaning it includes physical, digital, and social elements.

Collectively, we need to recognize the multidimensional nature of infrastructure in order to design, govern, and fund it in a way that actually serves and benefits everyone in every community. As philanthropists, we can help advance and then implement this thinking by demonstrating what’s possible when it comes to infrastructure. We invest in organizations and initiatives that take an ecosystem approach, accounting for the physical, social, and digital dimensions of their impact....

Read the full Q&A with Katy Knight, executive director and president of Siegel Family Endowment.

‘Trust is critical in a gender-responsive approach’: A Q&A with Mary Marx, President and CEO, Pace Center for Girls

January 27, 2022

Headshot_Mary Marx_Pace_Center_for_GirlsFounded in 1985 in Jacksonville, Florida, Pace Center for Girls works to provide girls and young women who are experiencing challenges in their home or school environment with opportunities for a better future through education, counseling, training, and advocacy. Today the organization’s twenty-two locations in Florida and Georgia provide more than three thousand girls with academic instruction, life skills, coaching, and counseling to help them face their past and prepare for their future. In addition, over the past decade, Pace’s public policy advocacy work has helped reduce the number of girls who are referred to Florida’s juvenile justice system by more than 60 percent.

Mary Marx joined Pace as vice president of external affairs in 2007 and has served as president and CEO since 2010. PND asked her about Pace’s advocacy efforts around juvenile justice reform, its national expansion strategy, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on needs and programs.

Philanthropy News Digest: What does the “gender-responsive” framework that Pace Center for Girls uses in its academic and social services entail, in concrete terms?

Mary Marx: I’d like to start by explaining why we’re using the gender-responsive framework and why it’s one of Pace’s foundational pillars. Pace Center for Girls was founded because a growing number of girls were entering Florida’s juvenile justice system, largely driven by experiences of trauma and the impact that trauma had on their behavior and physical, emotional, and mental health. Trauma places girls at significant risk for poor life outcomes, including dropping out of school, poor physical and mental health, long-term economic dependency, and involvement in human trafficking or the delinquency or dependency systems.

In 1985, there was no research on girls and delinquency, so our approach intuitively was centered on girls’ unique needs. Then, as the research findings came to light, we were able to validate that the gender-responsive model was the correct approach. Of course, then the question becomes, “What does that mean? What is a gender-responsive approach?” First, it means that you create an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for girls. For example, each Pace center has an enrollment of about sixty to eighty girls, by design. Rather than attending a school with three thousand students, you’re getting more individualized attention at Pace and access to wraparound services such as counseling, leadership skills development, and workforce training.

A gender-responsive model also entails that we take a holistic approach when we look at someone’s treatment strategies. This means taking into account all areas of development, such as physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional health. Another really important facet of a gender-responsive approach is that it’s relationship-based; meaningful connections fuel healthy development, and that is particularly important for young people who may have experienced abuse or neglect early in life. Healthy relationships are modeled by the staff and include helping girls develop healthy peer-to-peer relationships. We do a lot of peer mediation, peer mentoring, and group work so the girls are developing healthy relationships among themselves and with staff.

Another facet of the gender-responsive model is taking a strength-based approach, meaning that we focus on the strengths of each girl rather than her shortcomings. This also has to be based in health. At Pace, each girl has her own counselor, whom she can see at any time. There’s a minimum requirement that each girl be seen at least twice a month, but most, especially when they come to us in the beginning, are seen almost every day. In terms of physical health, we have our own health clinic in the Pace Center. We also have a relationship with the county department of health, where we take the girls for wellness checks, as oftentimes trauma is written on the body, for example, in the form of self-harming and eating disorders.

Trust is critical in a gender-responsive approach, as is ensuring that each girl has choice and control. One of the most important facets of our model is that we’re a voluntary program; no one is court-ordered to be here, and girls can leave of their own volition. That’s a really important piece, because they haven’t had mastery or control over their lives for a long period of time. We are very collaborative in how we make decisions with them and share power with them. And finally, we consistently prioritize empowerment and skill building for our girls....

Read the full Q&A with Mary Marx.

The top ten philanthropy stories of 2021

December 28, 2021

Calendar_pages_GettyImages-93870456_grublee

For our final newsletter (subscribe here for our newsletters and alerts) of 2021, the editors at Philanthropy News Digest shared (in chronological order) the ten stories that we felt were particularly significant for philanthropy — both in the moment and for the future. We aimed to include stories that addressed major areas of philanthropic interest this year: climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, education, racial equity, and social justice to name a few.

 

Perhaps the most noticeable omission from the list is the divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates, which we decided had not yet led to visible changes in the foundation’s grantmaking, although changes are expected in its governance structure.

 

What other social sector news resonated most with you in 2021? Please share your thoughts about our list on Twitter — tag us @pndblog — or leave a comment below.

Thank you for making PND a part of your important work on the vital issues of our time. We hope you all have a safe, healthy, and joyful end of the year and enter 2022 filled with hope.

— Matt Sinclair

 

DAFs may have cost charities $300 billion over five years, study finds

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The report from the Boston College Law School Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good found that the share of individual giving going to charities fell from 94.1 percent before the advent of donor-advised funds to less than 75 percent between 2014 and 2018, with an estimated $300 billion that otherwise might have gone to charities going into DAFs and foundations....



Asian American Foundation raises nearly $1.1 billion

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Established with initial commitments totaling $125 million from founding board members, the foundation has raised more than $900 million from foundations, corporations, and individuals in support of efforts to address a longstanding lack of investment in Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities and combat anti-AAPI violence....



Marguerite Casey calls for funding police and criminal justice reform

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Launched on the one-year anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd, Answering the Uprising: Closing the Say/Do Gap in Philanthropy is aimed at "correcting" the inadequate response of philanthropy to the racial justice uprisings in 2020....




MacKenzie Scott awards grants totaling nearly $2.74 billion

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Grants were awarded to nearly three hundred "high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked"....





Rockefeller, IKEA foundations launch $1 billion clean energy platform

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With the aim of reducing a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and providing a billion people with distributed renewable energy through mini-grid and off-grid solutions, the initiative will be run as a public charity designed to deploy catalytic capital more efficiently and at scale that supports the expansion of local renewable energy projects....



Nearly $40 billion pledged to accelerate gender equality by 2026

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Commitments announced at the Generation Equality Forum convened by UN Women included $21 billion from governments and public-sector institutions, $13 billion from the private sector, $1.3 billion from UN entities and multilateral organizations, and $4.5 billion from philanthropy....




Philanthropies pledge $5 billion to 'Protecting Our Planet Challenge'

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The commitments from nine philanthropies will fund efforts to meet the 30x30 goal to protect 30 percent of land and sea by 2030 in partnership with Indigenous peoples, local communities, civil society, and governments....




Powell Jobs to invest $3.5 billion in climate action over ten years

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According to an Emerson Collective official, the Waverley Street Foundation "will focus on initiatives and ideas that will aid underserved communities who are most impacted by climate change" and sunset after ten years....




GivingTuesday 2021 raises an estimated $2.7 billion in the U.S.

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The GivingTuesday Data Commons estimates that giving totals increased 9 percent from $2.47 billion in 2020, with thirty-five million adults in the U.S. participating, a 6 percent increase over last year....





Bloomberg Philanthropies commits $750 million for charter schools

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The five-year initiative is aimed at closing student achievement gaps — which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for students from lower-income families — and creating an additional hundred and fifty thousand seats at high-quality charter schools in twenty metro areas....

Striking a balance in education philanthropy: A commentary by Annie W. Bezbatchenko and Tamara Mann Tweel

December 27, 2021

Remote_learning_mother_boy_GettyImages_SeventyFourAchieving both breadth and depth in education philanthropy

Picture a one-room schoolhouse. Ten children ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old are seated in front of a teacher who lives in their community. Now picture the Khan Academy. Fifteen million students, each in a separate room, digesting short video lessons recorded by hundreds of individuals in countries they may have never visited. The leap from the physical room to the virtual room is both thrilling and destabilizing. On the one hand, education has been democratized and access to it made available to millions of students. On the other hand, education has been sapped of the emotional vitality that connects a student to a teacher and a group of peers.

For foundations invested in education, the choices can seem stark: Do we help educate the many or the few? Do we focus on large-scale content delivery or personal mentorship? Do we aspire for reach or for depth? At the Teagle Foundation, with its focus on liberal arts education, we have tried to navigate the options by exploring new mediums of scale without losing our grip on the longstanding benefits that a humanistic education offers: (a) a relationship with a teacher; (b) relationships with peers; and (c) texts that shape how students understand the world and their place within it. Rather than pursue an either/or approach in our grantmaking, we have sought to strike a balance between the two....

Read the full commentary by Annie W. Bezbatchenko and Tamara Mann Tweel, senior program officer and program director for civic initiatives, respectively, at the Teagle Foundation.

(Photo credit: GettyImages/SeventyFour)

Improving higher education outcomes for single mothers: A commentary by Jennifer Zeisler

December 22, 2021

Mother_college_grad_son_GettyImages_SDI ProductionsInvesting in higher education for single mothers to transform the U.S. economy

Before it’s too late, we must address a critical gap in this country’s economic recovery strategy: help for single mothers in college. These determined mothers understand the connection between their education and their families’ long-term financial security, and they have proven that they are ready and willing to take on the work that will fuel our future. It’s time for the philanthropic sector to follow their lead.

Over the last five years, ECMC Foundation has funded efforts to improve educational outcomes for single mothers, who represent more than one in ten undergraduates in the United States. We have learned that with a bit of additional support, single mothers can help drive equitable economic growth. As the only national foundation focused on the college success of single mothers, we have also learned that too few funders are making this type of sound investment. Women of color, who disproportionately pursue degrees while parenting, bear the brunt of this lack of investment. To achieve gender and racial equity in the years to come, more funders must commit to ensuring that single mothers have access to the education they want and need.

As we know from the economic recovery from the Great Recession, many jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage require educational attainment beyond high school. Single mothers are distinctly aware of the economic calculus of enrolling in college: Nearly half attend community colleges, where they pursue degrees in health care, information technology, and other middle-skill sectors that have the potential to fuel the country’s economic engine. They know that earning a college degree pays off, and they are right: Single mothers with an associate’s degree are nearly half as likely to live in poverty as those with a high school diploma.

But as the pandemic has made painfully obvious, it is difficult for parents, especially mothers, to work without access to child care. This is especially true for single-mother students, who must balance care, work, and school — and was true long before the pandemic. Facing high poverty rates and having limited time to devote to their studies due to work and family demands, fewer than 10 percent of single-mother students graduate on time....

Read the full commentary by Jennifer Zeisler, senior program director for career readiness at ECMC Foundation.

(Photo credit: GettyImages/SDI Productions)

Centering Black women and their lived experiences: A commentary by Stacey D. Stewart

December 09, 2021

Mother_with_baby_doctor_hospital_getty_imagesWant to advance racial equity? Prioritize the needs of Black women

This year, as we turn to philanthropic giving and think about how we can better invest in our communities, it is crucial that we center Black women and their lived experiences.

Black women have always been at the heart of the fight to repair centuries of disinvestment, neglect, systemic racism, and social injustice, but our communities and organizations are continually underfunded and under-supported. This means that Black women and Black communities often have to fight simply to be heard.

The lack of investment and understanding of culturally appropriate care translates to real-life health disparities: For example, Black women in the United States are three times more likely to die from pregnancy compared with white women. The lasting legacy of systemic racism still plagues our country — and it continues to disproportionately affect Black women in many ways. According to data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 74 percent of Black mothers serve as the breadwinners in their household. This has a cascading effect on Black families — meaning fewer groceries in the kitchen, smaller family savings, and less money, if any, to set aside for child care or future investments in higher education.

As the president and CEO of March of Dimes, a Black woman, and a mother to two daughters, I am deeply invested in ensuring that mothers and children are happy and healthy and receive the care they need. It’s also very personal for me. Growing up as the child of a Black physician, I witnessed early on how health inequities influence the health outcomes of Black mothers and children. Our healthcare system has failed Black Americans for centuries, and our communities deserve better. I am proud to lead this organization with its rich, eighty-year history of ideating and innovating to better serve and uplift all families, regardless of wealth, race, gender, or geography....

Read the full commentary by Stacey D. Stewart, president and CEO of March of Dimes.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

Support for first-generation college students beyond scholarships: A commentary by Andrew Davis and Sam Ritter

December 02, 2021

News_africanamerican_gradsThe power of private scholarships to fuel systemic change for first-generation college students

The challenge

Each year philanthropists invest $6.1 billion in private scholarships for more than 1.6 million students on their way to earning a college degree. Many of these scholarships were created to help level the playing field for first-generation and underrepresented students. But scholarships alone cannot remove all obstacles faced by first-generation students both in accessing higher education and graduating on time.

College completion has proven to produce better economic outcomes and job prospects, higher wages, increased satisfaction levels, and a higher quality of life. However, when college scholarships are awarded without a focus on completion, promising young people often struggle to navigate the road to graduation. Before a first-generation student can take advantage of the professional and social mobility a college degree can provide, that student must first graduate. But graduation is not only the result of academic commitment; it also requires a student to deal with the social, emotional, and financial strains of pursuing a degree. While this is true for all students, the problem is more pronounced for students who are the first in their families to attend college.

Inclusivity initiatives, students’ hard work, and the availability of scholarships have unlocked access to higher education for some students. But once enrolled, those students are often left to navigate college without the on-campus support they need. First-generation students often struggle to find an on-campus community that looks, acts, and speaks like them or understands their background. Even the hardest-working student relies on numerous factors, including community, to successfully graduate. Due to longstanding institutional blind spots, colleges and universities can overlook or underestimate the challenges of being a first-generation student. The result? Lower graduation rates despite sufficient academic ability....

Read the full commentary by Andrew Davis and Sam Ritter, the founder and director, respectively, of the Davis New Mexico Scholarship.

'Working with the wider community to support teachers': A commentary by Richard Bernstein

November 16, 2021

News_sheet_musicNonprofits must step up to support teachers

There is a nationwide teacher shortage. This is as catastrophic for today's youth as it is for society's future success. Not all the issues teachers face can be fixed instantaneously, but we must ensure that nonprofits are working with the wider community to support teachers.

I personally know the importance of a good music teacher — I've played the piano since childhood, and today it is a vital part of my daily routine — but like most kids, I had limited access to music in my public school, and even today, 50 percent of New York City public schools don't have a certified music teacher. This shortage reflects the wider challenges in teacher recruitment nationwide.

Teaching is a critical vocation, yet teachers are paid up to 60 percent less than other similarly qualified professionals. On top of this, many teachers pay for their own certifications, transportation, and even classroom supplies.

We know that nonprofits can help address these challenges. When nonprofits donate books so that teachers don't have to buy them themselves, libraries are fuller, and student imaginations are richer for it. Organizations including Verizon Foundation, Infosys Foundation USA, and Intel's Skills for Innovation have tech skills programs for teachers, which help them support their students over a wide variety of platforms. Still, clearly it is not enough: One in four teachers is currently considering quitting....

Read the full commentary by Richard Bernstein, board chair of Education Through Music.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

'Grounded in anger and in love': A Q&A with Richard R. Buery, Jr., CEO, Robin Hood

November 09, 2021

Headshot_Richard Buery Jr.Richard R. Buery, Jr. succeeded Wes Moore as CEO of New York City-based Robin Hood in September, after serving as CEO of Robin Hood's community partner Achievement First, a network of thirty-seven charter schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. He previously served as New York City's deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives, in which he led Pre-K for All, which for first time offers free, full-day, high-quality PreK to every four-year-old in New York City; created School's Out NYC to offer free afterschool programs to every middle school student; launched two hundred community school partnerships; managed the city's mental health reform initiative; and founded the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Mayor's Office of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises. His experience in civil and nonprofit leadership also included stints as staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, chief of policy and public affairs for the KIPP Foundation, and CEO of Children's Aid. He also co-founded Groundwork to support the educational aspirations of public housing residents in Brooklyn, as well as iMentor, which pairs high school students with mentors to help them navigate to and through college.

A first-generation Panamanian American born and raised in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Buery is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School, Harvard College, and Yale Law School and clerked on the Federal Court of Appeals in New York.

PND spoke with Buery about worsening income inequality and the racial wealth gap, the impact of COVID-19 on the fight against poverty, the importance of equitable access to early childhood education and mental health services, and diversity among foundation and nonprofit leaders.

Philanthropy News Digest: You've held leadership positions with and/or founded numerous organizations focused on children and education — from the KIPP Foundation, Children's Aid, Groundwork, iMentor, and Achievement First to spearheading Pre-K for All and community-school partnerships. How did you come to devote your career to improving educational outcomes for underserved children?

Richard R. Buery, Jr: I think it stems from love and anger. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Brooklyn but was able to attend a high-performing specialized high school, Stuyvesant, in Lower Manhattan. Riding the subway for an hour each way between East New York and Stuyvesant, I realized there were two New York Cities — one where children have all the resources they need to succeed, and one where they don't. Why was I one of the lucky ones who got to attend a great public school, when so many other kids in my neighborhood who were just as talented and driven were sentenced to a second-tier education?

Experiencing those two New Yorks every day did something to me. It made me angry. But I got lucky. In college, I began volunteering at an afterschool program in the Mission Hill housing development in Roxbury, Boston. I fell in love with the children, the families, and the community. It reminded me of home. I wound up starting a summer program to support those children when school was out.

So, I think my career is grounded in anger and in love. My experience in Mission Hill taught me that when injustice makes you angry, you can do something about it. You can organize people, organize resources, and you can work with communities you love to help solve problems.

Read the full Q&A with Richard R. Buery, Jr.

 

'Elements of a strong and sustainable funder-grantee relationship': A commentary by Susan Olivo and Brad Turner

October 29, 2021

Students learning to read on mobile devices_BenetechBuilding long-term partnerships with nonprofits to scale impact: Lessons from sustained funding relationships

Every foundation wants a nonprofit partner that shares in and will deliver on its mission. Every nonprofit wants to engage a funder that is willing to collaborate and help them grow. But while shared vision and mission are important, they are not everything. What are the elements of a strong and sustainable funder-grantee relationship that drive meaningful change and impact?

The Lavelle Fund for the Blind has long worked in partnership with its grantees to empower people who are blind and visually impaired to lead independent and productive lives. The fund pursues this impact by supporting direct services, such as vision screenings and larger-scale, systems-focused work. While funding direct services provides immediate and measurable benefit, focusing on systems change is more of a long-term investment. 

The fund's work with the nonprofit software organization Benetech falls squarely into the "systems-focused" category. When Benetech launched its Bookshare initiative in 2001 to help blind and visually impaired people access the printed word, the fund recognized the huge impact this technology could have if brought to scale and became one of Benetech's earliest supporters. This support ultimately helped Benetech earn a U.S. government grant to scale Bookshare nationally. Today, Bookshare provides nearly a million individuals who are blind or have other reading barriers with the accessible materials they need to read, learn, and build independent lives....

Read the full commentary by Susan Olivo and Brad Turner, executive director of Lavelle Fund for the Blind and vice president and general manager of global education and literacy at Benetech.

(Photo credit: Benetech)

As COVID persists, New York's youth need nonprofits now more than ever

October 22, 2021

Boys_and_girls_town_nycThis was not the "return-to-normal" back-to-school season many of us had hoped for. Remote learning and isolation for more than a year have left many students, especially the most vulnerable, behind. On average, K-12 students are now an estimated five months behind in math and four months behind in reading. And there is a mental health crisis among teenagers hit hard by loneliness. While schools, families, and government agencies continue to provide substantial support for youth, it is simply not enough. Nonprofits are playing a vital role in supporting our youth through this pandemic and its fallout.

As executive director of A Chance In Life, a New York City-based nonprofit that supports at-risk teens through positive youth development, I've seen how essential such organizations have been over the past eighteen months. We operate all over the world and recently opened a center for youth on Staten Island, our first U.S. program. The demand for our services, which include paid internships, food distributions, and afterschool programs, has been high.

As schools, government agencies, and the private sector come together to improve the lives of youth and their families, nonprofits must have a seat at the table. They can help mitigate COVID-related learning loss, provide supportive social reintegration settings, and use their local connections to provide support where other entities fall short.

The negative repercussions of the pandemic on youth and their education are staggering. The effects are even more pronounced for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students and those from high-poverty districts. Educators are doing everything they can, and I am deeply thankful for their work. But volatile conditions and insufficient funding have put them in an impossible position. Moreover, budget and time constraints limit teaching to core subjects, leaving little room for the additional support many students need.

Nonprofits are perfectly positioned to provide extra support to supplement students' classroom education with free tutoring, afterschool enrichment programs, and distribution of school supplies. They can also broaden students' education to include topics that don't always make it into school curricula, like financial literacy education.

Just as essential are the spaces for social development nonprofits provide — away from the pressures of exams and grades. Teens have been particularly negatively impacted by the social isolation of COVID-19, with 61 percent of young adults surveyed in a recent study reporting feeling lonely. Detachment puts young people at risk for mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

Nonprofits offer safe, enriching spaces that foster peer-to-peer connections. Whether it is for group tutoring, an internship or a music lesson, it is important to carve out room for teens to be themselves and form bonds away from outside stressors.

In addition, the close community ties many nonprofits forge through their work help them recognize problems sooner. And they can respond with solutions more efficiently because they're less constrained by red tape than government agencies.

As COVID-related budget cuts stretched social services to their limits, nonprofits have been stepping up. A Chance In Life chose Staten Island as the site of our first U.S. program in part because it had fewer social programs than other New York City boroughs. Nonprofits across the country have done the same by setting up shop in neighborhoods that have been most neglected — whether the problem is a lack of public transportation, crowded schools, or food deserts.

For-profit businesses that care about giving back should also work with nonprofits to achieve a meaningful and sustainable impact — for nonprofits are the link to the community. Community-based organizations, their leaders, and staff have built local relationships and know where resources are needed. Nonprofits use their trusted voices to let residents know how to access donations from businesses. They also know where to go in a community to reach the people who need those resources the most.

For example, this past August, we partnered with another community-based organization, Staten Island Community Partnership, and ShopRite to distribute food donated by the supermarket chain. Without the corporate donation, we would have had no food to share with our neighbors, but without our connections with local residents and physical presence in the borough, ShopRite would not have known where to distribute that food.

We may not yet have returned to "normal." But nonprofits are willing, ready, and able to ensure that the nation's youth are supported, no matter the state of the city. I urge those in influential positions — leaders in government, business, and philanthropy — to actively support and include nonprofits as we all work towards solutions to this crisis.

(Photo credit: Boys' and Girls' Town of New York City)

Headshot_Gabriele_Delmonaco_PhilanTopicGabriele Delmonaco is executive director of A Chance In Life, a nonprofit dedicated to providing shelter, education, and development for at-risk youth.

Building better futures for young refugees through education

October 14, 2021

Globe_handsThe emergency evacuation that recently unfolded in Afghanistan once again placed a spotlight on the plight of the world's refugees. It is a recurring crisis. In fact, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that of the 82.4 million people forcibly displaced from their countries in 2020 due to persecution, conflict, human rights violations, or other events, thirty-five million were under the age of 18. That's a staggering number of young people forced to live without the support, structure, and safety of their communities and unable to move beyond their present circumstances.

Tragically, education, which is so essential for young people to achieve their full potential, is overlooked when considering the welfare of refugees.

While working in Angola in the late 2000s, I saw firsthand the downstream consequences for people who grew up in refugee camps or far from their home communities with limited to no access to education. Make no mistake: Fleeing to neighboring countries allowed those young people to avoid forced conscription, brutal and violent war, and in many cases death. But few had the opportunity to pursue education beyond elementary school, and this no doubt hampered the post-war development of Angola, a country that experienced one of the longest civil wars of the twentieth century.

The current situation in Afghanistan is equally as urgent and dire. Afghan students and academics are under daily threat. We have not forgotten the attacks in 2016 on the American University of Afghanistan, when fifteen people were killed and at least fifty injured, including students, professors, and staff.  

To offer one solution to the ongoing refugee crisis in Afghanistan and around the world, the Institute of International Education (IIE) has launched and funded a new scholarship for student refugees and displaced persons. The IIE Odyssey Scholarship covers tuition, housing, and living expenses for refugees and displaced students pursing undergraduate or graduate degrees for the duration of their degree programs. We also created new scholarships for students from the now closed American University of Afghanistan. With these scholarships, displaced students will be able to safely continue their studies at college campuses abroad.   

In designing the Odyssey Scholarship, we leveraged our global network and expertise from within our regional offices. A regional approach has an additional benefit because 73 percent of displaced people are hosted by countries in the same region, according to UNHCR.

In addition, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has launched the Hilde Domin Programme, which supports students who are denied education in their home country. In Mexico, Proyecto Habesha began by supporting young people fleeing Syria, offering Spanish language training, financing, relocation support, and opportunities to study at Mexican universities. Their unique public-private programs grew over time, and today Proyecto Habesha brings displaced students from all over the world to live and learn in Mexico.

For all of these programs, the goal is to enable students to learn, grow, and one day return home to rebuild their countries. However, more must be done. At a time when crises around the world are worsening, resources for the displaced are severely lacking.

We know from our more than hundred-year history the importance of education in unlocking human potential. When young people have the opportunity to pursue their studies in safety and security, there is no limit to what they can accomplish. At IIE, we design and grow high-impact programs and make our programs sustainable by fundraising and building endowments that are prudently invested and managed. This is the model under which our longstanding programs and the new Odyssey Scholarship operate. 

IIE and our international network of colleges and universities have been working to provide practical solutions to threatened students from all over the globe and secure their safety. Real solutions require long-term commitment and support. We cannot allow for a lost generation among the refugee community. The resilience and determination we are seeing from displaced students and scholars should encourage us all to find a way to help.

Headshot_Jason_Czyz_IIE_PhilanTopicJason Czyz is executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Institute of International Education.

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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